What I hope to do with this article is to provide a few pointers to keep in mind when searching for a new Study Bible. A Study Bible is a copy of the Scriptures accompanied by various helps and tools to assist the reader in better understanding the content and the context. These may take the form of commentary notes, maps, charts, a cross-reference system, notes on manuscript differences, etc. Unfortunately, many Bibles are marketed as ‘Study’ Bibles and are anything but that. Hopefully, these pointers can come together to form a pair of discerning glasses that you can wear while scanning the multitude of options. Let’s get started!
1. “…in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Prov. 11:14, ESV). Ask the elders in your local assembly or a brother or sister in Christ that you respect to join you on your search. You don’t have to do this alone! Older believers may be able to point you in the right direction and possibly even recommend a Study Bible that is tried and true. Your elders would probably be delighted to help you as they are the ones “keeping watch over your souls” (Heb. 13:17, ESV). If you don’t know your elders very well, this may be a perfect opportunity to build rapport and relationship with them.
2. Research the publisher and editor(s) of the Study Bible in question. The parties involved in the creation of the particular Study Bible bring with them a foundation and framework that will inform and influence the tools contained. Editors have a theological agenda. Their soteriology, ecclesiology, eschatology, all their “ologies” mold and shape the contents. Basically, they’re hoping you come at the Bible the same way they do. So do your research. Get to know the editor(s) and the publisher putting out the Study Bible.
3. Remember that the study notes are not inspired. They are not infallible and inherent. We must always gauge and measure commentaries by the Word of God and not the other way around. It’s only the Scriptures that are “inspired by God” (2 Tim. 3:16). I only mention this because of the tendency we have in making much of our favourite scholars. It’s easy to become emotionally attached and, as a result, have a bias and blindness to the fact that they might be wrong sometimes.
4. Consider doing some digging in regards to the physical construction of the Study Bible in question. Something like the binding and the exterior can determine longevity and durability. Are you a note-taker? Do you write on the actual pages of your Bible? If so, then you’ll be well served in researching the type of paper used (Below I’ve included a link to an article solely on Bible paper. It’s a fascinating read and can be very helpful in figuring out what Bible is right for you). You may also want to think about the size of the Bible. Will it be something you’ll be travelling with, or will it be reserved exclusively for the study at home?
5. Make it a matter of prayer. Pray that this experience would be a blessing to you and those around you. Thank God for any guidance you’ve had so far in your search and continue to pray for help going forward. Thank Him for the immense luxury that it is to have the Word of God in your own language. Spend time meditating on the fact that many men and women gave their lives so that you could purchase, read, and study the Bible. Have a reflex of thankfulness amidst it all.
I hope that these pointers can be of assistance to you in your search for a new Study Bible or Bible in general. It’s a launchpad as it were, so I’m praying you can build off of this counsel and, at the very least, have a trajectory that will send you in the right direction. If you’ve got any more pointers, I’d love to hear them in the comment section below. Thanks and happy hunting!